Local not so lekker in Western Province

Western Province continue to shun local talent in a desperate attempt to lay their hands on the last remaining piece of silverware on offer for the 2009 rugby season.


Last month Province hauled out a short-term high-profile signing in New Zealander Chris Jack to beef up their anaemic lock resources.


In the latest development they have crossed the Tasman Sea and have landed prodigious 19-year-old Australian talent Matt Toomua to bolster their flyhalf stocks in the run in to the Currie Cup  play-offs.


In past seasons, Province have regularly recruited players from elsewhere in the country and only two Cape Town-born players (Anton van Zyl and Francois Louw) will start against Griquas at Newlands on Saturday.


At this rate, Province could be aptly nicknamed the ‘Arsenal’ of South African rugby.

 

The English Premiership side have a reputation of playing without locally-born players. Toomua is the latest of several No 10s that have been lured to the Cape over the years.

Names like Willem de Waal, Peter Grant, Naas Olivier, Tony Brown and Brent Russell spring to mind.


In recent seasons Ricardo Croy, Earl Rose and Isma-eel Dollie were all promising pivots who came through the ranks at Western Province but could not cut the mustard once they graduated beyond the ranks of the Vodacom Cup competition.


As a result these talents have had to move elsewhere to pursue their rugby careers. At the time of the Toomua announcement, Province coach Allister Coetzee was well equipped with information on why Toomua was recruited.


The regular flyhalf, Grant, has been on duty week in and week out and Province’s other flyhalf, De Waal, is out for the rest of the season. In the interests of player management the medical advice was that Grant needs time out.


The decision was taken not to call up No 10s from the Under-21 ranks for fear of disrupting the team. Province also feared that, because the Currie Cup season was approaching the play-offs, it was inopportune to blood a pivot in the senior ranks at this stage.


However, it must be a concern for up-and-coming players in Cape Town that, given the recruitment trends, there is little chance of them playing for the senior provincial side in the future.


Apart from Toomua, who will start on the substitutes’ bench against Griquas, Province will also welcome prop JC Kritzinger and wing Sireli Naqelevuki back from injury.


Like returning Springbok scrumhalf Ricky Januarie, they will all start on the bench. Saturday’s clash is all about securing a home play-off berth and the teams each have three league matches left to attain that goal.


Province seemingly have the easier passage as their remaining opponents are Griquas, strugglers Boland and the Lions.


Griquas, who defeated Province earlier this season, travel to Cape Town on Saturday and then have to face the might of the Blue Bulls and the Sharks in successive weeks.


Toomua is not the only Australian who will play a part in Saturday’s clash at Newlands.


Brisbane-based Test referee Paul Marks will handle the match.

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